What are the requirements for the enrolled agent (EA) designation?
Maybe you know the benefits of becoming an EA, but you’re not quite clear on the details of earning the designation. In that case, you need to learn about the enrolled agent requirements. Then, you can see just how easy becoming an EA is and start your own enrolled agent journey ASAP.
So, what does it take to become an enrolled agent? Keep reading to find out!
Compared to the requirements of other accounting and tax-related certifications, the enrolled agent requirements are quite simple.
Currently, there are no enrolled agent education requirements. This means that you can begin the process of becoming an EA right away.
Instead of EA education requirements, you’ll need to fulfill the primary enrolled agent requirement: obtaining a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN).
To get your PTIN, you must do the following:
When you apply online, the application process takes about 15 minutes from start to finish.
Conversely, you can fill out Form W-12 and mail in your PTIN application. This option takes about 4 to 6 weeks to process. Since waiting for 6 weeks adds a significant amount of time to your EA journey, applying online is more efficient.
Once you have a PTIN, you can move on to fulfilling the secondary enrolled agent requirements.
Along with having a PTIN, each enrolled agent certificate candidate must also take one of these 2 steps to satisfy the EA certification requirements:
If you’ve never worked for the IRS, you must take the EA exam, officially called the Special Enrollment Examination (SEE). If you have worked for the IRS, you may be exempt from taking this exam.
To start, I’ll address the process of passing the EA exam.
The EA exam and the SEE are the same, so the EA exam requirements are the same as those for the SEE. As a result, the EA exam doesn’t have any education or experience requirements. Instead, a PTIN is the only thing you’ll need for IRS exam eligibility.
Additionally, the process of applying for a PTIN covers your exam application. So, you can start studying for the exam as soon as you have your PTIN.
The EA exam syllabus has 3 parts:
To study effectively for the EA exam, you must rely on EA exam prep. You can start by learning all about the enrolled agent review courses available to find the best one for you. Then, you can use my EA course discounts to save big on your EA review materials!
Once you’ve purchased a course and determined how long you’ll need to prepare for the EA exam, you can schedule your first testing appointment.
To schedule a testing appointment, you must visit Prometric’s website. Prometric is the organization that administers the EA exam, and you will select your exam date and time using their website.
If you choose the online route, you’ll need to create an account. To do so, first click the “Create An Account” button in the “I Want To…” box, and then click “Create Account” in the login box that appears next. Follow the prompts to set up your user ID and password.
Then, visit your email inbox, open the email you will have received from Prometric, click the confirmation link, and activate your account. Finally, log into the Prometric website, enter your personal information (such as your PTIN), and click “Save and Continue” to finish your registration.
After registering at Prometric, you’ll need to find your preferred testing center. Prometric’s website lists all of the testing centers in your area, so head back to their site to get started. After clicking the “Locate a Test Center” button, you’ll be able to select your country and state from the drop-down menus. Then, you can choose which exam part you want to schedule. Next, you must enter your zip/postal code or address and city to search for nearby testing centers.
After that, you can check the appointment availability of your preferred testing center by selecting a date on the calendar, clicking “Schedule an Appointment”, and following the prompts to schedule your appointment. You can also use the contact information to call the testing center and set up your appointment.
When you’re ready to schedule your appointment, you must again supply information about your preferred exam part, testing location, and appointment date. You must then pay the testing fee, which is $185 per part. You can pay by credit card online or by electronic check over the phone.
At last, you will receive an appointment confirmation number. You must record and keep this number in case you need to reschedule, cancel, or change your appointment.
If you’ve worked for the IRS before, you may qualify to skip the EA exam and use your IRS experience to earn enrollment.
Circular 230 specifies that during your previous employment with the IRS, you “must have been regularly engaged in applying and interpreting the provisions of the Internal Revenue Code and the regulations relating to income, estate, gift, employment, or excise taxes.”
Generally, to fulfill this expectation, you must have spent at least 5 years in one of the following taxpayer-facing positions:
Additionally, 3 of your 5 years of employment must have occurred within the last 5 years prior to your separation from the IRS.
The IRS has established these regulations for former employees seeking enrollment in order to verify that an EA candidate’s IRS experience has provided them with the same overall background as someone who passes all 3 EA exam parts. If your experience hasn’t supplied you with this background, the IRS will restrict your enrollment to a specific area of representation.
However, if you do possess the appropriate employment history with the IRS, you can apply for enrollment by:
The background check ensures you haven’t engaged in any conduct that would justify the suspension or disbarment of an attorney, CPA, or enrolled agent from practice before the IRS. Furthermore, the IRS conducts the background check on your behalf as soon as you submit Form 23.
The former IRS employee review can take about 3 months to complete. Therefore, the process of becoming enrolled via IRS experience will last at least that long, maybe longer. However, all you have to do during this time is wait, as opposed to studying for and passing the exam. For this reason, taking advantage of IRS experience if you can is still a worthwhile strategy to become an EA.
After you’ve successfully secured the EA designation, you must meet a few other EA requirements to maintain your enrolled agent status.
These requirements are known as the EA continuing professional education (CPE) requirements, and they involve:
You’ll need to learn more about your enrollment cycle to meet these requirements. Additionally, you should factor the costs of EA CPE courses into your EA budget.
Meeting these requirements may seem daunting, but they’re not insurmountable. With this in mind, retaining your EA designation by keeping your knowledge up-to-date and your skills sharp is a small, worthwhile price to pay.
Do you have more questions about the requirements to become an enrolled agent? If so, keep reading for the most common FAQs about the prerequisites for enrolled agents and general IRS agent requirements.
There aren’t any EA education requirements. So, you don’t need to enroll in any specific courses or classes to become an enrolled agent. However, to effectively prepare for the enrolled agent exam, it’s crucial to complete an enrolled agent exam course.
Since there aren’t any education requirements for EA qualification, you don’t need a college degree to become an EA. Furthermore, if you’re lacking a college degree, you can still become an EA by passing the EA exam.
When the IRS reviews your enrolled agent application, they’ll also complete a “suitability check”. This is a background check that involves a review of your tax compliance and criminal record.
So, while considering becoming an enrolled agent, consider the suitability check and how it can impact your application. You can provide explanations for any felony convictions in your initial application.
Outstanding tax liabilities and federal tax law breaches will automatically disqualify you from becoming an EA. But, any criminal background will be reviewed and may be considered grounds for disqualification, depending on the situation.
Simply put, not all criminal activity is an enrolled agent disqualification. However, offenses involving a breach of trust or dishonesty are disqualifications under section 10.5 of the enrolled agent application. Generally, these offenses need to be less than ten years old to negatively impact your application.
The IRS asks that EA applicants allow 90 days for processing. This may seem like a long time to add to the enrolled agent process. But, the IRS needs time to complete the background check. So, plan for this 3-month waiting period in advance of submitting your application.
Still haven’t heard back about your EA application after 90 days? In this case, you can contact the IRS by phone to check on your application status.
There aren’t any specific IRS-approved enrolled agent courses. Instead, the IRS recommends that you browse the internet for EA exam preparation courses and review these basic materials:
The IRS also recommends that you visit Prometric’s website for free EA exam preparation materials.
Prometric provides some helpful EA certification preparation materials. But, it’s by no means a comprehensive exam prep course. If you’re seeking guidance for selecting an EA exam course, check out my review of the best EA training courses!
As we’ve already mentioned, the EA exam doesn’t have enrolled agent education requirements. You’ll just need to get a PTIN to become eligible to take the exam. However, there are timing requirements for exam completion.
For one, you can only carry over a passing score from one part of the exam for up to 2 years. If more than 2 years go by after you pass one exam part, you’ll have to retake it.
Additionally, the EA exam is only offered during the testing window set by the IRS. This window lasts from May 1st to the end of February (the next year). During March and April (the peak tax filing period) you can’t take the EA exam.
The EA licensing exam (the SEE) has three parts. Each part contains 100 questions. Additionally, the first part covers individuals, the second part covers businesses, and the third part covers “representation, practices, and procedures”.
In the first part of the EA exam, you’ll face the following topics:
The second part of the exam will cover these topics:
Finally, the third part of the EA exam will encompass the following topics:
To learn more about the information covered in the EA exam, you can read my overview of the EA exam syllabus.
The SEE includes three different multiple-choice question (MCQ) formats. These are direct questions, incomplete sentences, and “all of the following except” questions.
Each part of the enrolled agent certification exam is 3 ½ hours long. Taking into account the tutorial, survey, and a 15-minute break, the total seat time is 4 hours.
If you’re like most people, you’ll need to pass the EA exam to become an EA. Therefore, you should get started by learning more about becoming an enrolled agent. Then, discover which EA review course is best for you using my comparison of the best EA courses.
You can also ask me any questions you may have by emailing or leaving a comment. I wish you the best with your EA application and exam!
I am the author of How to Pass The CPA Exam (published by Wiley) and the publisher of this and several accounting professional exam prep sites.